Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man *****
by H. G. Wells
Overview: A scientist discovers a way to become invisible. What he thinks will give him an amazing advantage turns out to be a great curse. Madness follows in his desperation.

Postitive elements: short, well-written classic with some great action

Negative elements: a few people are murdered but nothing grisly

Conclusion: I enjoyed the creativity of this book and the overall story, but it was a bit dark. I love the classics because even if the story isn't your favorite, you can enjoy reading the book just because of its craftsmanship. I'm going to read H.G.Wells' War of the Worlds next. 

Under a Cloudless Sky

Under a Cloudless Sky *****
by Chris Fabry

Overview: Two girls from opposite sides of the tracks become fast friends in a coal mining town in West Virginia during 1933. Seventy years later, one of these girls returns to that coal mining town and a secret she's kept all these years is exposed.
The chapters switch off between the events of 1933, and the current day events of 2004.

Positive elements: Well-written story of friendship, family, and the power of the truth. A clean story that speaks of God's working in our lives without being preachy.

Negative elements: There is mention of women who were forced into prostitution to feed their families. There is a shooting where men and a girl die. There is a woman murdered. An alcoholic father mistreats his family. None of these negative elements are described in any graphic detail.

Conclusion: I think every Chris Fabry book I read gets better. I haven't read them all, but I have read the last half-dozen. I appreciated that I didn't know what was going to happen until the very end. The story seemed very geniune and not forced. I liked the characters, and I cared about them. The story is a bit bittersweet, but I was glad that the end was happy. I would highly recommend this book.  

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel *****
by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Overview: During the Reign of Terror in France, a brave and mysterious Englishman smuggles French aristocrats out of France and saves their lives. No one knows who he is and no French spies can find him...he has everyone fooled, even his wife.

Positive elements: A well-written, enjoyable story. I loved the suspense of the story and how I had no idea how it would end.

Negative elements: A few swear words

Conclusion: I loved the pace of this great, old classic. So often the classics are monstrous books that take a while to get to the action. This book is much shorter and full of suspense. It has a wonderful ending, and the love story woven through the book is between a husband and wife falling in love for a second time.

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery *****
by Eric Metaxas

Overview: William Wilberforce began his life as a rich, fun-loving, witty English aristocrat. Life was about having fun and enjoying all that money could buy. However, as a young man Wilberforce is confronted with the gospel and realizes that God has a plan for his life beyond just enjoying himself. At this point, he is already a talented speaker and politician. So, as a very young man in Parliament, he begins speaking out for the end of the slave trade and for the reform of many other cruel social practices.

It takes forty years before the slave trade is ended in England. And this is the amazing story of that journey.

Positive elements: Eric Metaxes is a genius in crafting stories. The book has just the right amount of details without being boring. The book also did a great job of showing what was happening in the world at the time and how God prepared Wilberforce as just the right man for the job.

Negative elements: There was one brief description of the treatment of some slaves aboard a ship that was pretty graphic. I didn't finish that one paragraph but skipped over it.

Conclusion: Wilberforces' story reminded me of a few good lessons. One, just because you are doing what is right, doesn't mean it will be an easy road. Wilberforce fought for the end of slavery and for social reforms for his whole life. It was a long, hard battle, but the result was truly the changing of a nation. And two, God can bring just the right people together for his purposes. Wilberforce had the greatest friends. Without all the different people who were a part of his life encouraging him, he couldn't have done what he did.

I would recommend this book to anyone as a great, enjoyable, encouraging, and inspiring read.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

30 Day to Joy

30 Days to Joy *****
by WaterBrook Press

This creative journal sounded like so much fun to me, but I was really disappointed when I opened it up. The small, hard-covered book has one writing prompt per day such as Day 1: "How is joy different from happiness?" There are mostly blank pages and then pages with quotes about joy from various people and from the Bible. I wish the book had more substance to it. The questions for each day were not very inspiring and the one color throughout the book wasn't very inviting.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional *****
by Asheritah Ciuciu

This beautiful, small, hard-covered devotional leads us through the season of advent with devotionals centering around the names of Jesus. Each new week of advent, there is scripture to read together as a family, discussion questions, and a Christmas carol to sing. Then each day of the week has a different name of Jesus to meditate on, along with a devotional, a challenge, a prayer, and further verses for study. Each week ends with a list of activities for your family such as service projects.

Why should you celebrate advent? I love what Asheritah says in her introduction of the book: "We all suffer from soul amnesia, forgetting who God is and what He has done for us from one day to the next. Like you, I too must remind myself each year who Jesus is and why His birth is so miraculous--not because my mind doesn't know but because my heart ceases to be amazed."

So, I'm excited to go through this book with my kids and be reminded of the true Wonder of the season.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Color Index XL

Color Index XL *****
by Jim Krause

I had never looked at a color index before. I was excited to glance through this book because my husband and I have started oil painting. It's always a challenge figuring out what colors go well together. This book is designed to help with that. 

Color Index XL is a thick book...almost an inch thick. The author gives a helpful introduction for people like me who haven't used a colored index before. And then the rest of the pages are full of different color schemes in different shades. 

I'm looking forward to using this in quilting also to determine how different colors look together.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Hinds Feet on High Places: An Engaging Visual Journey

Hinds Feet on High Places: An Engaging Visual Journey *****
by Hannah Hurnard
Overview: This is a beautiful, soft-covered, illustrated copy of the original Hinds Feet on High Places

The back of the book also includes some writings from Hurnard while she was in Switzerland. She shares about things God taught her during that time and what eventually lead her to writing. There is also a short autobiography about her at the end where she shares her powerful testimony and her calling to be a missionary in Israel.

In addition, the back of the book includes some coloring pages of various verses in the Bible.

Conclusion: I really enjoyed reading more from Hurnard. In the diary section at the back of the book, I loved this quote from her on love. "It (love) is not some feeling one waits for, nor some special person to evoke the love. It is an attitude of will. I will cast myself down in giving. The lower I go, the more love I am able to transmit from God to others, just like the Lord of love himself, who was not content until he found and took the lowest place in the universe."

I felt like I had a chance to meet the amazing woman behind the classic book. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who enjoyed the original book.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Street of Eternal Happiness

Street of Eternal Happiness *****
by Rob Schmitz

Overview: Rob Schmitz is a journalist living in Shanghai. He gets to know the small shop owners along the Street of Eternal Happiness. He knows the florist, the sandwich shop owner, the baker who sells hot onion pancakes, the couple whose house nearby was destroyed and left them homeless. As he learns about their backgrounds, families, hopes and dreams, he seeks to understand China's history and how it has shaped the Chinese culture today. 

Positive elements: Well-written. Schmitz captures the uniqueness of the each of these colorful Chinese characters. You feel like you are listening in on the screaming fight between the pancake maker and his scheming-to-get-rich wife. You feel the pain of the florist as she worries about her sons' futures and their poor jobs. You feel embarrassed when her son tries to court a country girl and his humiliated and rejected. You are angered when the elderly are taken advantage of in investment schemes.

Negative elements: Chinese history and economics is long and complicated. Parts of the book felt tedious. Parts I skimmed because I didn't care to understand quite so many details. The economy of China isn't something I've thought much about before.

Conclusion: I initially wanted to read this book because my sister-in-law is adopting a boy from China, and I have a friend who has taught English in China for a decade. But as I read, I was so intrigued by the Chinese culture. The Chinese people have been through so much. I loved this quote near the end of the book, "Who would've thought that, fifty years after such violent revolution and catastrophic famine, the Chinese would have enough spirit left in them to dream, much less have the means and freedom to try to pursue them?"

And that quote truly sums up the book. What does it look like when Chinese people of all ages and stations in life dream? 

I would recommend this book to anyone.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World's Bestselling Devotional

Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World's Bestselling Devotional *****

Overview: Most Christians have heard of the devotional My Utmost for His Highest, but few know the story behind the book. Michelle Ulu tells a detailed and inspiring story of the partnership and love of Oswald Chambers and his wife Biddy. The book tells of each of their childhoods, how they met, their service together from England to Egypt, the many lives they touched. Biddy was the one who compiled all the scriptures and devotional thoughts in My Utmost for His Highest. She self-published it, and it has never been out of print since.

In the middle of the book, there are some pictures from their ministry. And at the end of the book, there is an appendix about the themes in My Utmost for His Highest.

Positive elements: The book had the perfect balance of lots of facts and details and yet the story kept moving. A great biography.

Negative elements: none  

Conclusion: Biddy Chambers' life greatly encouraged and convicted me. She was so committed to the mission God had given her and her husband to tell people about Jesus where ever they were. In the midst of ministry, she and her husband made sure to care for their daughter personally. It was a good reminder that our kids only have one set of parents. 

I was also greatly encouraged by Biddy's daily prayer. She found herself serving people and welcoming them into her home constantly. She depended each day on God to give her the strength to keep serving well and all the provision of food, etc. Her prayer was: "I give the day over into God's hands, completely, so He will look over who comes."   

Oswald died young. After he was dead, Biddy continued teaching from her husband's books. She went on to spend almost fifty years typing up and publishing almost everything he wrote! 

Biddy was completely devoted to her husband only because she was completely devoted to God. And when her husband died, she carried on her calling, despite the overwhelming challenges. I want to be completely devoted to God, too, and serve others in His strength.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Transforming Grace

Transforming Grace *****
by Jerry Bridges

This 345 page book is all about God's grace towards us in its many forms. The author begins by saying that while many Christians understand that they are saved by God's grace, many believe that once they are saved, it is up to them to work hard to earn God's favor. But God's grace is complete...we add nothing to it.

Jerry Bridges goes through the whole topic of grace in the Bible and shows that we are completely lost without Jesus. It is only through His grace, His unmerited favor towards us, that we have anything.

I was really encouraged to keep thanking God for all his daily graces in my life. As a Christian, saved by God's amazing grace, I should be the most thankful and grateful of all people. I also appreciated the reminder that God's grace is shown to us through the truth of His word. We need to know His word so we can be comforted and changed by it. And so we can help others as well.

I would recommend this book to anyone. It's packed full of truth and scriptures. It is a book you have to read slowly so you can try and absorb it all.

The book also has an extensive Bible study in the back to do with a group or individually. The study is broken up into eight weeks.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Secret Keeper Girl: The Power of Modesty for Tweens

Secret Keeper Girl: The Power of Modesty for Tweens *****
by Dannah Gresh
This cute, little, full-color book covers seven different topics related to beauty and modesty. The book is short, easy to read, and relevant to tween girls.

Dannah Gresh's seven beauty secrets include ones such as "Secret 2: True beauty doesn't come from what's on the outside." And "Secret 4: God wants nothing we wear to distract from seeing our true beauty." She even included a mini history lesson on fashion and how it has become increasingly immodest. 

I appreciated how the author emphasized that modesty isn't about a bunch of rules but about your heart. She does include some fun "Truth or Bare" fashion tests such as seeing if your belly shows when you raise your hands. But the fashion tests are the very end of the book. She does a great job explaining in appropriate language why girls should even care if their tummies show.

She has scripture verses throughout the book as well supporting her statements.

I would recommend this to any tween girls to read. It's a great starting point for conversations about fashion that will hopefully reach the heart and go beyond just "Change your outfit! You can't go out in that." 

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Christmas Blessing

The Christmas Blessing *****
by Melody Carlson

Overview: Amelia finds herself alone and desperate after her fiance is killed in WW2. She travels across country with their two-month-old child to meet his parents. Full of fear and shame, she worries about if they will accept her and help her. Bad luck continues for Amelia, and before she can meet her "in laws" she and the baby become terribly ill. How will she survive? Should she give up her baby son and give him a better chance at life?

Positive elements: a sweet, clean story about second chances

Negative elements: The story is short and rather underdeveloped.

Conclusion: I would recommend this story as a pleasant, relaxing way to spend an evening during the busy holidays. I read the book in a couple hours. I appreciated that the book was perfectly clean and not even as predictable as I thought it would be.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Just Sayin'

Just Sayin' *****
by Dandi Daley Mackall
Overview: Cassie's mom was supposed to marry Travis. For some reason, the wedding is off. Cassie is so disappointed because she was looking forward to having a dad again and a new step-brother and step-sister. Travis and the kids have moved away, and Cassie is living with her grandmother for awhile. All the kids are writing letters back and forth because they miss each other. Cassie and her supposed to be step-brother are fans of a TV show about insults. They also start writing the star of the show. 

This is a book full of letters between lots of different characters.

Positive elements: fun looking letters to read, a good message about the power of words

Negative elements: lots of insults, divorce

Conclusion: This book looks fun to read because of how the letters are laid out. However, my 11 yr. old just couldn't get into the book. And it was a bit boring for me, too. The author seemed to really be trying to talk to kids about the importance of kind speech. And that the results of miscommunication can be devastating. Those are great lessons, but the book doesn't really grab your attention. 

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.  

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Daring to Hope

Daring to Hope: Finding God's Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful
by Katie Davis Majors *****
Overview: Five years ago, Katie Davis wrote Kisses from Katie. She shared her heart about moving to Uganda to care for orphans. She adopted thirteen girls, started a school and ministry, among other things. Now we get to reconnect with Katie and hear about her life and ministry now that she's been serving in Uganda for more than ten years. She is now married and has a baby son of her own.

One of the themes of this book is hope in the midst of hardship. Katie shares the truths God has taught her as she has witnessed and participated in such great suffering. She says, "Maybe we are not called to alleviate suffering (as I once imagined) as much as we are called to enter into the suffering of others and walk with them through it." 

I also was encouraged with her insights on faithfulness in whatever God has for you for the season. After nursing a friend for months and then watching her die, Katie said, "In the days after she died, I walked into her room a thousand times out of sheer habit and remembered the words attributed to Aristotle, 'We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.' It struck me. Surely, faithfulness is not a one-time act, not a decision or a destination, not something to eventually be attained. Faithfulness is what we repeatedly do." 

And even though we are so often not faithful, God is. And that's why we can put our hope and trust in Him. Even in the midst of pain, God is still sovereign. The Bible says, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful."  

Positive elements: well-written, thought-provoking, so easy to read!

Negative elements: none

Conclusion: This book is a wonderful mix of stories from Katie's life in the last few years and deep truths about God. I was so encouraged to remain faithful in what God has given me to do now. I also was reminded that I am called to embrace suffering and not run from it.

Katie had some similar themes in her book as Ann Voskamp's The Broken Way. It's amazing to see that through two completely different women, younger and older, living out two different callings, in two far apart continents, the truth about God and loving other people is the same.

I would recommend this book to anyone. It would be encouraging to young adults all the way to grandmothers!

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

A Disruptive Generosity

A Disruptive Generosity: Stories of Transforming Cities Through Stategic Generosity *****
by Mac Pier
Overview: How can we make an eternal difference in the world around us? Mac Pier writes this book to challenge believers today to use their money to change the world. He interviews forty leaders from ten countries and shows how their great generosity has hugely impacted their communities and countries. The book has thirty-one chapters and is designed to be read a chapter a day for a month. Chapters all begin with scripture from Isaiah to meditate on, and the end of each chapter has "points to consider" and a prayer. 

Positive elements: well-written and encouraging

Negative elements: none

Conclusion: I wanted to read through this book quickly so I could get the review done, but it is a bit much to try and read cover-to-cover. I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if I had spent a month reading it like is recommended. There are so many people named and details, that I was a bit overwhelmed and a bit bored reading too much at once. 

But I was inspired by two things: many of the people in this book are older, successful business men and women. They have chosen to get involved and give away their money rather than "retire" to a life centered around themselves. As I grow older, God will continue to give me new opportunities to serve if I'm open and not self-centered.

And secondly, I love the quote, "A unique dimension of money is that it can use the temporal to impact the eternal." I felt a little funny reading a book geared toward older business folk, but it held so many truths for me as well. No matter my business or financial status, I can make a lasting difference through giving.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I'll Push You

I'll Push You: A Journey of 500 miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair *****
by Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck

Overview: This is a story about the friendship between two men. The book follows their trek across the mountains of Spain and is sprinkled through with flashbacks of their life-long friendship. The chapters switch back and forth between the two guys writing.

Patrick and Justin had always gone on crazy adventures together, but then Justin started to lose the use of his legs due to a disease. It didn't take long for Justin to be completely paralyzed. But neither Justin or Patrick gave up their sense of adventure. Instead, they tackled this incredible journey.

Positive elements: Clear, well-written, sweet story of friendship. The guys share light-hearted stories of their childhood, describe the amazing trek, introduce us to fellow sojourners, and also share very serious, personal struggles they've faced.

Negative elements: Some of the childhood stories got a bit boring. I felt like they were kind of trying to make the book a bit longer.

Conclusion: I really loved how at the end of the book they talked about not just wishing you did fun things with your friends and family but actually going out and making memories. I probably can't go with a friend or my family on an overseas adventure, and film a documentary, but I can take the time to make some great memories with the wonderful friends and family I have been blessed with right here at home.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Unexplainable Church

The Unexplainable Church: Reigniting the Mission of the Early Believers *****
by Erica Wiggenhorn

This ten-week Bible study covers Acts 13-28. Each week covers roughly one chapter of Acts. Homework is broken into five daily assignments each week. Each day you read a passage of a scripture or more. There are questions to think through and some commentary by the author.

I enjoy Erica's studies because they seem to have a good balance of thought-provoking questions and commentary. In some Bible studies I've done, the questions seem so easy that I really don't have to think at all. I have been challenged, encouraged, and inspired by studying Acts.

Erica's first study The Unexplainable Life covered Acts 1-12.

I would highly recommend Erica's Bible studies to anyone. She provides free resources if you want to use this as a group study. I've found her studies work great for groups because of the great questions.

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy *****
by Eric Metaxas
Overview: Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor and theologian living in Germany during WW2. Like the title states, he was not only a pastor with a prophetic understanding of the times but also became a spy and a man who eventually gave his life trying to stop Hitler.
Eric Metaxas starts this biography from the very beginning with Bonhoeffer's parents and continues until his death a few weeks before the end of the war. The book is full of letters, quotes, photos, and rich details about this man's amazing life.
Positive elements: A wonderfully written book and powerful story of God's mighty working through Bonhoeffer and so many other men and women during this awful time in history.
Negative elements: Some might see the length of the book (608 pages) as a deterrent, but it is so worth the time to read.
Conclusion: I have wanted to read this hefty book because I have read so many of Bonhoeffer's quotes in other books. He was a genius and had an amazing gift of explaining things about God and about life. He didn't set out to be a great hero; he simply obeyed God day-by-day in a culture that was slowly drifting away from following Jesus and believing the Bible. His story has greatly impacted me.
Historically, I learned a lot about Hitler and WW2 from a German point-of-view, which was very interesting and horrifying.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Day it Snowed Tortillas

The Day it Snowed Tortillas *****
by Joe Hayes

The Day it Snowed Tortillas is a lot of little stories put into one book. My favorite story was "The Thief." It is about three brothers who go to live with their god fathers so they could learn to make money. Their family was poor. The first brother learned to make clothes. And the second brother learned to make shoes. But the third brother learned to be a thief. They can only find work at the palace so the king put the third brother to many tests because he was a thief. And that is why "The Thief" is my favorite story.  
by Sabrina Staples, 9                                                                                              

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Kidnapped Prince: the life of Olaudah Equiano

The Kidnapped Prince: The life of Olaudah Equiano  *****
By Ann Cameron

Overview: This was an awesome book about a black boy who gets kidnapped when he is little, then is sold into slavery. He gets kidnapped with his sister, who the people end up separating from him. He meets his sister one other time in his life, then they never see each other again. This book is about Olaudah's life as a slave, being passed from owner to owner. It's a very hard life. He does meet some people that are very nice to him, though. 

I love this book because it shows how in the end he trusts God even more than he did in the start. There are a lot of parts where only God was the one who rescued him. He has a really hard life, and there are a lot of details. This is also a true story. In 1789, Olaudah published his autobiography. This was a great story!

Positive Elements:  Friendship, and some love

Negative Elements: There is a lot of detail about his really hard life. 

Conclusion:  This was a great book which I think you should read. It would be good for ages 8 & up.

by Summer Staples, 11 



Touch Blue

Touch Blue *****
by Cynthia Lord 

Touch Blue is a book about a family who take in a foster child to keep their school open. On their little island, Tess and Liddy have to learn to get along with Aaron, the new foster child. Tess learns the importance of family, the love that you have to give them, and how important they are to us even if you don't realize it. Aaron learns the importance of trust. He had been to so many foster homes that he had lost trust. Tess has all these lucky things. And one of them is a piece of blue sea glass because the saying is, "Touch blue, and your wish will come."

I think kids 8 and up should read this book because I liked the meaning of the book.

by Sabrina Staples, 9

Monday, June 5, 2017

Life After

Life After *****
by Katie Ganshert
Overview: A passenger train in Chicago is bombed. There is one survivor. This is her story of coming to terms with why she lived and learning how to move forward with her life.

Positive elements: well-written, clean, some good twists

Negative elements: a bit predictable

Conclusion: This is the first book I've read by Katie Ganshert. Initially, I was worried that it might be depressing or graphically violent due to the subject matter. It was neither. I could tell from the near beginning who the heroine was going to fall in love with and almost quit reading the book. I don't enjoy books that are too predictable. But the story began to have some twists just as I was about to quit. So, I kept reading. 

I would recommend this book for a nice, relaxing read. It deals with some serious themes but not in a heavy way. And I loved that it was perfectly clean in every way.

The Lucky Few

The Lucky Few *****
by Heather Avis

Overview: After Heather finds out she can't have children, her and her husband begin pursuing adopting a baby. Then a baby comes up for adoption with Down Syndrome. Despite her considerable medical needs, they decide to adopt her. Over the next few years, God leads them to adopt another daughter out of the foster care system and then a son with Down Syndrome.

Positive elements: well-written, easy to read, powerful story

Negative elements: none

Conclusion: I really enjoyed Heather's honest look at adoption, especially in relation to Down Syndrome. I also enjoyed her perspective on the relationships she has with the birth parents of her children. Each relationship looks different, and she shares some of the things God has taught her through them. The book also has some really cute pictures of her kids.

This is a quick, easy read. You don't get bogged down in many of the actual adoption details or medical details. The book mostly focuses on the kids and how God grows their family in a special way.

This would be an encouraging read for anyone passionate about adoption.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

At Home in the World

At Home in the World *****
by Tsh Oxenreider

Overview: Tsh and her husband Kyle take their three young children on a nine-month trip to visit nineteen countries around the world. She writes about their experiences traveling as a family and her search to find balance between enjoying the comforts of home and traveling the world. She speaks about her search for peace and her struggle with depression. She shares some of her poetry and describes all the amazing food they eat on their travels.

Positive elements: well-written, enjoyable, and a little thought-provoking

Negative elements: made me green with envy to travel the world :)
Conclusion: I love her ponderings on the difference between stability and travel. She quotes monk Thomas Merton on stability, "By making a vow of stability the monk renounces the vain hope of wandering off to find a 'perfect monastery.' This implies a deep act of faith: the recognition that it does not much matter where we are or whom we live with."

Tsh shares a quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
Earth's crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
the rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries...

She concludes, "I've seen the earth crammed with heaven...Wanderlust and my longing for home are birthed from the same place: a desire to find the ultimate spot this side of heaven...I love finding one more new place to explore, I love sowing it to my kids, and I love wandering those new streets with Kyle. But unless the flickering bushes compel me to remove my shoes, traveling the world will never satisfy. Neither with the daily liturgy of normal life back home. The laundry folding and bill paying would do you in. I'd resign myself to plucking blackberries." 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves to travel or the idea of traveling. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Giver

The Giver *****
by Lois Lowry 

Overview: The Giver is about a boy, Jonas, in a world of no color. On the ceremony of twelve, when they turn twelve, all twelve-year-old's get assigned a job. Jonas's job is special. He's been chosen to be the new receiver. The receiver is the man who holds all memories, including memories of colors and feelings. This man shares some of his memories with Jonas of colors, feelings, and pain. In their community, they release the old and the babies that aren't made right. Or if they have a twin, the smaller one is released. Jonas realizes that the people in the community don't have feelings, so they don't know that it's wrong to kill people. The community wants everything to be perfect. The birth mothers give birth to the babies, then the community decides which family they go to. They also arrange marriages. The community arranges everything. But when Jonas's family is given a baby, the baby cries a lot. The community decides that he is to be released, so Jonas runs away from the community with the baby to save it. Find out what happens on Jonas's journey with the baby and more about his life in the community.

Positive elements: There's a a lot of love in the book such as when he loves that baby enough to run away with him.

Negative Elements: It talks a lot about the release (or killing) of the old and young.

Conclusion: I thought this was a great book, that's why I gave it five stars! The author left the end like a mystery, so you could decide what was going to happen. After I read it, I read her speech about it. It was a very interesting speech. I really liked this book and think that you should read it.

By: Summer Staples, 11

Ramona's World

Ramona's World: Ramona takes on fourth grade ***** 
by Beverly Cleary

Overview: Ramona makes a friend, Daisy, who is in fourth grade. They become really great friends. Most of this book is about Ramona wanting to become more responsible like her older sister, Beezus. Ramona has to work through a lot of hard things, like spelling and taking care of her baby sister. Ramona also has to learn how to be kind to her enemies. Her biggest enemy is Susan until the end. Then Ramona realizes why Susan is always such a brat. 

Negative Elements: Ramona is mean in some parts of the book to other people. 

Positive Elements: Ramona learns how to be responsible and kind.

Conclusion: I think this was a great, pretty clean book. I think kids ages nine or ten would like it because Ramona is nine. Have fun finding out what adventures Ramona has in fourth grade!

By: Summer Staples, 11  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption *****
by Bryan Stevenson

Overview: Bryan Stevenson is a young lawyer working on behalf of forgotten death row inmates. He writes this book about his pursuit for justice for those who have no voice.

Positive elements: well-written, full of information

Negative elements: The book almost had too many details. I had a hard time getting into the story because there were so many stories intertwined. And honestly, all the laws and legal proceedings became tedious. I skimmed the last half of the book.

conclusion: This was a shocking book to read with all the conspiracy that happened in the criminal justice system. And it was a powerful reminder that one young man can save so many lives because he is willing to fight on the behalf of others.

I would love for everyone to read this book, but I think only the serious reader will make it through and enjoy it.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Friends, Partners, and Lovers

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What it Takes to Make Your Marriage Work *****
by Kevin A. Thompson

Overview: This is a marriage book looking at marriage in three different areas...friends, partners, and lovers. The end of each chapter has a short list of questions to think about or discuss with your spouse.

Positive elements: The writing is straightforward with some stories sprinkled throughout from his counseling experience.  He shares from his own life, too, which I like.

Negative elements: I have read a lot of marriage books and this one isn't earth shattering. But like he said at the end of the book, sometimes just to read a marriage book and be reminding of a few things is worthwhile.

Conclusion: I loved this quote from the book. "Change is a necessary aspect of marriage. Unless you are growing and adapting, your marriage is dying. Healthy couples have the ability to learn and grow. Their greatest teacher is often conflict." This is why I read this book. I don't want my marriage to grow stagnate and eventually die. And I want conflict to strengthen my marriage.

I don't always think about the three elements of marriage, especially the partnership aspect. I liked this quote about partnership. "Partnership at its very best, empowers each individual to experience their full potential while encouraging them to know that in times of weakness, there is always someone who has their back." 

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to keep on working on his or her marriage. The book is written by a man, but this is a book great for men or women or a couple to read together.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Bible Sleuth: New Testament

Bible Sleuth: New Testament *****
by Jose Perez Montero

Overview: This is a fun look and find book with illustrated stories out of the New Testament.

Positive elements: We have an older version of this book where you had to be able to read to know what you were supposed to "hunt" for. It was always frustrating for my younger kids that they couldn't look at the book on their own.  This new version has pictures of what you have to find. So, that's great.

Negative elements: I mentioned that the book has pictures now of what to find, but there are only a few things to look for on each page. I wish there was more for the kids to hunt for and the objects and people they are looking for are difficult for my young daughter to find.

Conclusion: My four-year-old looks at look and find books every day. This is a fun book, but it just isn't one of her favorites.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Joy the Summer Vacation Fairy

Joy the Summer Vacation Fairy *****
by Daisy Meadows 
Overview: Kristy and Rakil help fairies get their magic items back. This time they’re helping Joy get back three magic shells. The bad guy is Jack Frost and his goblins. They are the ones who steal the fairies’ magic things, but they all have a good ending. The goblins can be funny some times, and they`re not scary.

The books are part of a series, and they all have a map at the front and a poem.   

Positive elements: It had funny parts.

Negative elements: None

Conclusion: I like these books because they`re a fun read for girls. Joy is a special edition so it is like three of the magic fairies books in one, one for each shell there fun easy adventures. I think that kids 7 and up should read this book. 

By Sabrina Staples, 8